City of St. Maries
St. Maries was established at the confluence of the St. Maries and St. Joe Rivers in the heart of the scenic St. Joe Valley in 1913.
Some settlement began after the completion of the Mullan Road in 1860, but most settlers came to the area after the discovery of gold near St. Maries in 1880.
Logging and business surrounding the timber industry has been the principal economic factor since the valley was first settled and accounts for the fluctuation economy.
St. Maries is the county seat of Benewah County (pop: 9,285) which was established Jan. 23, 1915 when it was separated from the southern part of Kootenai County. The county was named for a Coeur d’Alene Indian chief and covers 787 square miles.
Potlatch Corporation operates a plywood and lumber mill in St. Maries, and remains one of the county’s largest employers. Other major employers of Benewah County include Benewah Community Hospital, Valley Vista Care Corporation, St. Maries Joint School District 41, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Stimson and Jack Buell Trucking.
The City of St. Maries is preparing for its centennial celebration in 2013. Organizers are already planning 2013 to be a year full of events commemorating the last 100 years and planning the next 100.
If history is your interest, the Historic Hughes House at Sixth Street and Main Avenue is a must. The century-old log home is filled with photos and memorabilia of the valley.
Main Avenue in St. Maries offers several restaurants and gift shops. While visiting the local shops be sure to take time to notice the more than a dozen historic murals painted on several of the buildings.
The murals depict the local history, from the famed “River through the Lakes” featured on the southern wall at the Harvest Foods grocery east of St. Maries to the painting of splash dams on the west end of the city at Mullan Trail Park, more than a dozen hand-painted murals decorate the city.
The Paul Bunyan statue has stood on the elementary school lawn at Main Avenue and 15th Street since 1967. Paul’s flannel shirt is sometimes painted traditional red/black and sometimes the school colors of green and gold.
On the west end of the city at Mullan Trail Park, near the Benewah County Fairgrounds, a large kiosk provides information about the timber that stands in the St. Joe Valley and the early years of logging. Also at the park is an old steam donkey that at one time was use to harvest timber from area forests.
To the south of the kiosk, across State 5, is Woodlawn Cemetery and Firefighters’ Circle at Woodlawn Cemetery. The circle includes the graves of 57 men who perished fighting the 1910 fire and other Forest Service firefighters who died on R-1 fires in later years. The memorial is on the National Register of Historic Places, and some sources say it is the only Federally-owned cemetery plot that has nothing to do with the military.
The scenic St. Joe River flows along the northern edge of St. Maries. The river is easily accessed on Aqua Drive at which runs from the northern end of Tenth Street along the river to Sate Three. There visitors will find public access to swimming areas, picnic tables, and a public boat launch.
The Logger’s Memorial Park at the corner of Main Avenue and Fourth Street in St. Maries is a tribute the loggers who were killed while working in the area forests.
The park features five large split cedar logs, erected vertically as the center of the memorial. The names of more than 250 victims are inscribed on bronze plaques mounted on the logs. A stone walkway leads to the display.
St. Maries boasts a beautiful nine-hole golf course and four popular city parks: Aqua, Vic Camm, Central Park and Mullan Trail.
Aqua Park gives ample public access to the St. Joe River. Central Park is the core of many community events and the location of a swimming pool, picnic facilities, a playground, basketball and tennis courts, softball fields, a dirt track and a soccer field.
Within walking distance of downtown, visitors will find fairgrounds with a well-groomed horse arena, RV hookups and a dumping station. Also within walking distance is the St. Maries Public Library and a bowling alley.
St. Maries has several local celebrations including the annual Summer Sucks Grass Drags and St. Joe Valley Car Show in July; each December the Christmas in St. Maries celebration brings a lighted parade, caroling and free community dinner; in August the Benewah County Fair features 4-H and open entry competitions as well as the Junior Rodeo.
The biggest weekend of the year is Labor Day weekend and the Paul Bunyan Days celebration. The event boasts the Blue Ox topless bar, the biggest fireworks show in all of Idaho, logging and water events, a fun run, carnival and booths set up by local merchants and crafters.
In addition to its own attractions, St. Maries is the hub of activities offered in the area, including bicycling on the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, the 100-year-old Heyburn State Park, miles of state and corporate-owned land for ATVs and motorcycles, camping, hunting, fishing, just to name a few of the activities offered in the area forests.